Formed in 2000, by a merger between the major merchant bank, Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas), and the number one bank in France, Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), BNP Paribas is one of Europe s youngest banking conglomerates. The BNP Paribas Group has been steadily built up around this original French core, fusing together a number of financial institutions strongly rooted in European economic history.
Banque Nationale de Paris: A bank born of a dual revolution in 1848
A number of deposit and lending banks were set up in 1848, to remedy the credit freeze that France experienced as a result of the 1848 Revolution. Two of these institutions are direct forerunners of the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP): Comptoir National d Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was set up through a joint initiative by the public authorities and a group of private partners, among whom were prominent Parisian printers and publishers, including Louis Hachette, and entrepreneurs such as Alphonse Pinard. Comptoir d Escompte de Mulhouse was set up on the initiative of textile and manufac- turing entrepreneurs in Alsace, a region in the east of France.
These two establishments triggered the banking revolution, which took place in the 1850s. This was a time when ordinary people gained access to general banking and borrowing services through the creation of large deposit banks. These new institutions attracted dormant savings and recycled them into the economy, notably through bill discounting and short-term lending to businesses. A range of new services also became available to middle-class individuals: cashier services, renting of safe-deposit boxes, cheques, securities depositories, letters of credit and so on. Banks now worked face-to-face with their customers through networks of branches. The CNEP headquarters, construction of which began in 1878, was a highly visible symbol of the Bank s presence in Paris.
Following the Anglo-French Free Trade Treaty in 1860, CNEP was the first French bank to build an international network for the purpose of financing international trade. It set
HEAD OFFICE OF THE COMPTOIR NATIONAL D ESCOMPTE DE PARIS,
A DIRECT FORERUNNER OF BNP PARIBAS, VIEW OF THE ATRIUM IN 1882
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